Though the recent “Emailgate” scandal has highlighted the Martinez administration’s lack of transparency, shielding public information from the citizens of New Mexico is not limited to the improper email correspondence that has recently surfaced.
For months, ProgressNow New Mexico has attempted to obtain official schedules and visitor logs from the Governor’s Office in an effort to determine where our public officials go and with whom they meet. We have been told, in response to these requests, that “The Office of the Governor does not have or maintain any visitor logs,” nor does it maintain official schedules.
The Governor’s Office did not deny that key staff maintain private appointment logs and schedules. Using the same language they previously used to justify their avoidance of public records laws to the Santa Fe New Mexican, they asserted that calendars showing meeting between public officials was not public record.
When requesting information, for example, about Chief of Staff Keith Gardner’s official record of who he meets with in his public office to discuss matters of public concern, we were told that because Mr. Gardner’s actual schedule might not exactly correspond to his contemplated schedule, the public therefore has no right to any of the information about those appointments, meetings, etc.
Such a policy effectively hides every meeting conducted with government officials from public view and such rigid interpretations of what classifies as “public information” places an undue burden on members of the public who wish to obtain information about their government.
“Despite latebreaking efforts by the Martinez administration to make government more open and accountable, there are many aspects of state government that remain hidden from public view,” said Pat Davis, Executive Director of ProgressNow New Mexico. “Using private email accounts to shield state business from the public is bad enough, but at least the governor has made an effort to change course. When it comes to visitor logs, schedules, and official calendars, however, this administration shows the public only what it wants to show, which is only a fraction of what really goes on behind closed doors.”
“Putting out a welcome mat on the front door of your government office means little when all of the business happens through the back door,” adds Davis.
A full accounting of our requests, and copies of the records denials are available on our blog at ProgressNowNM.org/blog